More on Yon State

It's been a little more than a year since I wrote the brain-dump No More Excuses where I criticized the state. I've welcomed the many arguments that have come at me since writing it and would like to offer more information regarding my claims.

Table of Contents

1 Semantics

I hate it when arguments devolve into people throwing their own custom dictionaries at each other. Worse than that is when people keep arguing without actually bothering to clarify the meaning of some of their words. Below are some dangerously ambiguous words that I've come across.

1.1 State

In America, the term is terribly confusing. In 1776, Americans called their geographic subdivisions "states" in the same way that France and Germany are states. These states were allied under an agreement defined in the Articles of Confederation until that was replaced by the Constitution.

Along the way, the several states homogenized until they were finally considered inseparable; thus turning their alliance that was once made of several independent states into a super-state on its own with provincial subdivisions retaining the archaic title of statehood.

Nicholas Cage, in all his wonder, had a thing to say about that in one of his bad history movies.

I am not advocating the stripping of the fifty stars from the flag and subjecting all of the Yankee provinces to the federal super-power. My criticism applies equally to Illinois, North Dakota, the United States Federal Government, Canada, Italy, China, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Chile, and every one of those color-coded blotches you find on a globe.

1.2 Government

For the same reason that the word "state" confuses Americans, the word "Government" is also confusing. Americans tend to live under the command of at least two distinct corporations that call themselves a "government" in one form or another; municipal or county, the above-mentioned "state," and the super-state of Federal Government.

While I may, in conversation, employ rhetoric involving the word "government," I try to make sure that all my more thoughtful brain-dumps will avoid the use of the term "government." I make no prescription as to the size, shape, or nature of government that people live under.

Every person has an opinion about the kind of government they'd live under if they could command a wish or two from a genie and those fantasies are far beyond the scope of my assertions here. I do not seek to deny people of a government that provides them health care or a space exploration program or a minimum wage, or a retirement fund -- those are all great fantasies to have and nobody should ever stop having these political dreams.

What a government does or how it conducts its procedures is a political argument and there is no room for the gross diversion of politics in this discussion. How a government defines its jurisdictions is the real question posed in this blog.

1.3 Nation

American culture is unique among the societies of the world because it does not predate its modern state by as many centuries as in other countries. Where other societies have language, music, cuisine, folklore, traditions and other identifying traits that long existed independently of the state, Americans and their state grew together like close siblings.

Because of this, Americans tend to identify themselves by their state. Where the rest of the world does comprehend Nations independently of the state (there are, for example, Irish, Welsh, and English nations inside the state of the United Kingdom and there is a Jewish nation that lives within the borders of many states), Americans have a bit of a hard time distinguishing their collective identities from the state.

The few sub-nations that exist in American culture (notably: Texan and other Confederate identities) tend to be scorned mercilessly by the rest of American culture; having the consequence of a broad, vague, and sterile collective identity centered around politics.

It seems to me that American society is a composite of many nations bound by their subjugation under the rule of a single super-state. In that light, I think it is fair to say that I have no intention on diminishing the virtues to be had in any person's nation and urge those who feel like I am attacking their nation when I criticize the state to consider that it was precisely because American colonists did not identify themselves with the British state that the American nation came to be; that the battles of Lexington and Concord took place a good fourteen months before the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence and that Americans continued to revolt years after George Washington's inauguration.

1.4 Anarchy

Because the term has been used to describe several movements across several societies in several time periods, the word "anarchy" suffers severe ambiguity. Anarchy today is more a sentiment than it is a legal theory and has such emotional significance to people that its use is actually destructive to communications.

It is precisely because the word "anarchy" is useless that most modern anarchical philosophies feel the need to further describe themselves with hyphenation; -capitalists, -socialist -syndicalist, -primitivist – a phenomenon I've come to call the "anarcho-whateverist" movement.

My goal here is not as grand as the construction of a world view. My efforts are focused exclusively on considering the lawfulness of the fiat land claim that constitutes a state's borders. Where anarchists tend to want to answer all the world's questions about religion, industry, politics, health, and so on, I would like to confine the discussion here to only one topic with the hope that maybe we can come to some kind of consensus in the next century or so.

There are people who describe themselves as anarchists with whom I share some views – or at least, some terminology. Similarities in rhetoric may actually be more misleading. It's difficult to say because there are so many anarchists with such different attitudes on property, law, and the state.

2 Fiction

It's important to distinguish truth from modern folklore. When confronted with the idea of a stateless society, people often imagine scenes from Mad Max's infamous thunderdome or another equally fictitious source. In today's culture, fiction has been so finely crafted that it more readily invades our consciousness, substituting itself in for parts of reality that we have never known.

If you knee-jerk with buzz-words like "Wild West" or "Rogue Government" that are principally informed out of cinema and cyberpunk novels, it's time to stop and ask yourself what real historic data is backing up your dissent.

I've come across a plenitude of fiction-supported arguments against statelessness. It was fun, at first, to investigate the legends that informed people on the matter. I kept hoping that behind each tale lurks a dragon of truth that will shock and awe me into accepting the statist narrative of life.

Unfortunately, reality isn't a very tame or cooperative beast. It's never aided and has sometimes bucked and reeled against attempts at making it fit neatly into the Hobbesian assertion.

3 Utopia

The other side of the knee-jerk coin is to accuse statelessness of being a utopian ideal. Such dissent may acknowledge that states have been behind every great horror that occurred in the last two hundred years, that Colombian drug-lords seem to govern their territories with more stability, better standards of living, and with lower actual drug use by the people than their states can claim. But unwilling to concede to the specter of inquiry, one must argue that people can't be trusted to "just get along" in the way statelessness proposes.

Many of the folks opposed to the state have their own mountains of rhetoric that refutes this accusation of the Care Bear attitude and I don't really think that they're worth repeating here. The question is simple: is the state actually the protector of civilization and law that it claims to be?

No claims to pragmatism can change truth. The Earth is not kept spinning around the Sun simply because it's the most practical thing to do. Atoms do not seek equilibrium of electric charge simply because they think the alternative is disutilitous. If the state is the only means of providing civilization with the protections of law, one need not accuse statelessness of being an unrealistic ideal but instead can simply call it "wrong."

Statism and my assertions cannot both be correct. At least one (possibly both) must be wrong. I'd like to know that I am wrong. But one cannot claim to have superior practical knowledge until they have actually practiced the subject at hand. Anybody claiming that stateless law is "impractical" is claiming to have tried living in a stateless society.

Of course, no human alive today has lived in statelessness. Thus no modern human's claim to practical knowledge on the matter is valid. You may have a pretty good theory as to the consequences of statelessness but that is, definitionally, not the same as practicality.

Date: 2012-12-03 18:54

Author: Anthony "Ishpeck" Tedjamulia

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